|May 3, 2010|
By G. Michael Dobbs
Two fairly mediocre television series and one classic movie series have come to DVD this week.
I think it's safe to say that almost every generation has its own Sherlock Holmes. For me as a kid growing up in the 1960s and 70s, it was Basil Rathbone who starred in a series of 14 films based on the classic detective stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
And while I thoroughly enjoyed Peter Cushing's and Jeremy Brett's performances as the world's first consulting - I even liked what Robert Downey, Jr. did - Rathbone remains closest to my movie fan heart.
The films do take liberty with the Conan Doyle stories. The first film is an adaptation of "The Hound of the Baskervilles," while the second is an entertaining original story featuring George Zucco as the arch nemesis Professor Moriarty.
The Universal series put Holmes in modern-day London and used the stories as "inspiration." Despite the fact Rathbone reportedly grew very tired of the role and Nigel Bruce's Dr. Watson was nothing like the character from the books, the films delivered great entertainment then and now.
Although the Rathbone films were a staple of television stations for years, the two films he made for 20th Century Fox and the subsequent 12 films he and Bruce made for Universal have had a spotty distribution record on DVD.
Now, thanks to a great restoration effort made by the UCLA Film and Television Archives, the 12 Universal films have never looked better as new prints bring back the luster to the series.
One of the collection's extras is archivist Robert Gitt explaining that when the films were sold to television distributors they were cut and altered. The goal was not only to make the finest quality prints of the existing film elements but also to restore the original beginning and end credits.
This proved almost impossible for the last film in the series, "Dressed to Kill," as Gitt explained the beginning title footage couldn't be found in its original 35mm.
It's rather frightening to realize that such a hugely commercial and popular film series such as the Rathbone Holmes films should suffer from such a fate. It's easy to understand why we are in danger of losing so much of the cinematic heritage.
This is a great set. Seek it out.
Rita Rocks: Season One
I love comedy and will give almost anything a chance. I gave both of these Lifetime television series more than a chance and I have to say that both shows illustrate the problems with standard television comedy.
"Sherri" is built around Sherri Shepherd, actress, comic and member of "The View." Her character is a recently divorced woman who is a mother, part-time actress and comic and full-time paralegal. I have to admit I laughed once during each episode I watched, but largely the gags seemed to be retreads from previous sitcoms.
That was also the feeling I got from "Rita Rocks." Star Nicole Sullivan from "MADtv" is a married mother of two who is trying to reconcile her "adult" duties with her desire to recapture her youth as a rocker.
The result is another production that always seems vaguely familiar and not funny.
Both Shepherd and Sullivan are talented performers whom I'm sure are capable of supporting much better shows. They should consider getting different agents.
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